ENGLAND will enter a month-long lockdown from Thursday, Boris Johnson has announced.
Until 2 December, people in England will only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons, such as education, work or food shopping.
Mr Johnson, speaking at a Downing Street news conference on Saturday evening, said there was “no alternative” to a second period of national lockdown restrictions.
He urged the country to return to his spring message of “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives” and acknowledged that “Christmas is going to be different this year”.
However, the prime minister suggested that “tough action now” could allow families to be together over the festive period.
Mr Johnson said that “no responsible prime minister” could ignore the rising number of coronavirus infections across England.
And he warned that, without action, there could be a greater number of COVID-19 deaths this winter than during the spring’s first wave of the pandemic.
Schools, colleges and universities will remain open while those who cannot work from home, such as construction or manufacturing workers, will be encouraged to continue going to their workplaces.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will close across the country, although they will be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.
Non-essential shops, hairdressers and leisure and entertainment venues will also be shut.
The prime minister said the furlough scheme, which has seen the government pay a proportion of peoples’ wages during the COVID-19 crisis but was due to end on Saturday, would now be extended through November.
Different households will be banned from mixing, although support bubbles and childcare bubbles will remain and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
Gyms will be shut but people can continue to exercise for unlimited periods outdoors, either with people from their own households or on a one-to-one basis with one person from another household.
People will be able to travel internationally for work, but won’t be allowed to go abroad for holidays.
Premier League football and other elite sports will be allowed to continue, due to the testing regimes in place for professional sportspeople, but amateur sports will be put on hold.
The prime minister said those who are vulnerable would not be asked to shield in the same way as they did in the spring and early summer.
But he urged those who are at risk to minimise their contact with others and not go to work if they are unable to work from home.
MPs are expected to vote on the fresh measures on Wednesday.
Mr Johnson said there was a need to be “humble in the face of nature” with the virus “spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers”.
“Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day – a peak of mortality, alas, far bigger than the one we saw in April,” he added.
The government’s scientists have warned that hospitals could run out of beds by early December without new measures.
And Mr Johnson warned that “the risk is that for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us and for our families”.
The prime minister added: “We will get through this, but we must act now to contain this autumn surge
“We are not going back to the full-scale lockdown of March and April.
“It is less prohibitive and less restrictive, but from Thursday the basic message is the same; stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Until now, the government has been pursuing a localised approach to COVID-19 restrictions, with England divided into three levels of measures, depending on local infection rates.
The government’s aim is that, after the month-long period of tougher national measures, different parts of the country will be released back into the existing three tiers, depending on regional transmission rates.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Johnson’s top ministers were briefed by the government’s scientists prior to a remote cabinet meeting.
The prime minister also held talks with senior Conservative MPs.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Everybody is concerned about the rise in infections, hospital admissions and – tragically – the number of deaths.
“That’s why three weeks ago, Labour called for a circuit breaker in England, in line with SAGE’s recommendation to bring infections down.
“The government completely rejected that, only to now announce the same thing. That delay in introducing restrictions will come at an economic cost and a human cost.
“I’m glad that the government has finally taken this decision – but it should have done so weeks ago.”